Aug 282019

Squares through time

Over the years Northampton has lost a number of its squares, some completely and remembered only in street name, others have shrunk to a size significantly less than their former extent and others have succumbed to traffic thoroughfares.

The public square has been important through history, and we can trace its origins from at least the Roman city forum. Squares either evolved due to the convergence of a number of key roads or were created as part of a wider town or city plan. It more recent times because squares are more for the benefit and meeting of people they have conflicted with the needs of the automobile. When a square is allowed to remain it either becomes isolated by perimeter roads or transected into multiple parts by new roads.

Over time squares also suffer from shrinkage due to fill-in or encroachment from the sides. We can see examples of all of these situations in the present state of Northampton’s squares.

Where are the squares?

This is not a comprehensive list of squares and does not include some of the smaller ones that were once peaceful islands in an otherwise compact Victorian residential street scene. These are the examples we will visit:

  • Abington Square
  • Campbell Square
  • St Giles Square
  • Grafton Square
  • Regents Square
  • The Green
  • Mayorhold
  • Market Square

Figure 1: The locations of a selection of Northampton’s squares

The first group of squares: Abington Square, Campbell Square and St Giles Square all emerged as a convergence of roads and became significant meeting places for trade, entertainment or stallholders social gathering. Abington Square lies at the junction of the Kettering and Wellingborough Roads, where at the western end they join the extended medieval high street which we know as Abington Street. When the town walls were enlarged to their medieval extent Abington Square was immediately outside the western gate.

Figure 2: Regents, Campbell and St Giles Squares – Speed 1611 map

Campbell Square lies on the Mounts at the summit of the hill that overlooks the old town and immediately beyond the perimeter of Holy Sepulchre churchyard. It was the convergence of Campbell Street, Upper Mounts and Church Lane. St Giles Square is a much smaller square today than earlier times and lies at the junction of Derngate, Guildhall Road and St Giles Street and like Campbell Square lies beyond the perimeter of a churchyard, in this case, All Saints. Speed’s 1611 map suggests that this square was much wider in the 17th century with the buildings on the south side lying further south on their plots. It is also likely that both of these locations were in former times were used for livestock sales. On Speed’s 1611 map Campbell Square shows what appear to be sheep hurdles similar to one also appearing in Cow Meadow. All three squares remained important meeting places and centres of entertainment in the late 19th century as they were for a time all venues of visiting circuses and even “attractions” like bear-baiting.

Figure 3: Grafton Square at the entrance to St Andrew’s Priory – Speed 1611 map

Grafton Square and Regents Square both lay on the north side of the medieval town adjacent to the north wall. Regents Square was immediately inside the North Gate where Sheep Street and Broad Street converge. This area was formerly known as North End and appears as such on Noble and Butlin’s 1746 map. Grafton Square was at the junction of Crane Hill, Todds Lane (both later together known as Grafton Street) and St Andrews Street alongside the internal alignment of the north town wall. The square was the area immediately in front of the entrance to St Andrews Priory rather than being an exit point from the town. Many of the buildings and the intact boundary wall of the priory can still be seen on the 1611 map, the priory having been dissolved in 1538.

Figure 4: Regents Square – Law 1847 map

Figure 5: The Green – Noble & Butlin 1747 map

The final group of “squares”: The Green, Mayorhold and Market Square have one thing in common. They were at one time the main focal point of the town, but each was succeeded by the next as the town expanded further eastwards. The Green, now completely lost under a car park was the Saxon town’s green, close by St Peter’s Church. It remained as a street name until St Peters Way was constructed. 18thcentury maps show that the area had already been encroached upon and by 1746 was probably less than half its original size.

Figure 6: Mayorhold – Noble & Butlin 1747 map

The Mayorhold replaced The Green in importance in the early medieval period when the medieval walls were built to enclose the enlarged town. It lay near the north-south alignment of Horsemarket where it passed through the earlier town defences. Speed’s 1611 map shows the Marhold (Mayorhold) as a key focal point of the road network with no fewer than eight thoroughfares converging at this point. Nearby the town’s first town hall is known to have stood in Scarletwell Street[1]. For those that were born or lived in the streets radiating from the Mayorhold, and known locally as “The Boroughs”, it was their square. The Mayorhold retained its importance in some respects until the 1970s and prior to its final disappearance under a dual-carriageway, it was a secondary departure point for a number bus and coach operators serving the town.

Figure 7: Market Square – Speed 1611 map

Of course, for most residents of the town, the Market Square was and remains the central feature of the town. We know from an order made by the king in 1235[2] that the market was established on the open space to the north of All Saints, it had previously been the practice to hold markets in the churchyard and within All Saints itself. In the 15th century the square acquired a market cross which appears on Speed’s map but was lost during the 1675 fire. A water pump was added early in the 19th century but was moved to Cheyne Walk in 1863 when the square gained a cast-iron fountain which survived until one year short of its centenary. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was the scene of many social and political gatherings, speeches, military musters and parades apart from its regular use for its primary purpose as an open market.

  1. Described by Henry Lee, town clerk of Northampton in “Collections of Henry Lee, Town Clerk of Northampton 1662–1715”, MS. Top. Northants, c.9. p. 94. (Bodl. Lib.)

  2. Calendar of Close Rolls 1234-7 p206-7 (Henry III)

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

Jul 292019

A “lost church” hidden in plain sight

In some streets in London today there are so many coffee shops of one particular chain that you can see the next one further down the same street. In earlier days the same was true of churches, chapels and mission rooms along some streets of Northampton. The St Michael’s Road area is a good example.

Figure 1: Plan of St Gabriel’s, St Michael’s Road, Northampton. Goad’s Insurance Plan, 1899
© British Library Board [Maps 145.b.12.(3.)]

The first question that needs to be addressed is why it is called St Michael’s Road when St Michael and All Angels church is some little distance away on the east side of the Kettering Road? The Church Extension society had purchased a plot of the north side of St Michael’s Road before the houses we built in the early 1880s. As a temporary arrangement an “iron church” was erected in Lower Mounts, presumed to be on the north side. However, the gift of a benefactor a Mrs Whitworth secured the site which became known as St Michael’s Mount and the church was erected there. The St Michael’s Road site was subsequently sold. This area of the town was rapidly expanding and by 1894 the parish had a population of 13,000 but its parish church had only 620 places. Not that the area was short of a Christian witness: Baptist churches in St Michael’s Road and Kettering Road, Primitive Methodists in Grove Road and Wesleyan Methodists in Queens Road. The Anglicans continued to be challenged by a lack of suitable premises in the area. A new site was acquired on the south side of St Michael’s Road, between the Baptist chapel and the Kettering Road at a cost of £1000. On it the “iron church” that had previously been home to St Matthew’s on Kingsley Park which was purchased and re-erected on the new site for £300. It could accommodate 350 worshippers. Remarkably this same building still stands today (2019) on the site, albeit in a rather sorry state of repair.

Figure 2: View of St Gabriel’s, hall and Sunday school
© Google Maps, 2019

The church was dedicated on Tuesday, 23rd October 1894 by the Bishop of Peterborough. The Rev. G C Day the senior curate of St Michael’s took charge of the new enterprise which remained part of the St Michael’s parish for all of its existence.

The Church Extension Society had been particularly effective in promoting and raising the funds for an ever-increasing need for an Anglican presence in the town and its annual reports provide snapshots of the society’s progress. By 1897 there was a discussion of the need for an additional presence in St Michael’s, St Edmund and Abington parishes, this was despite the work already completed at St Matthew’s and St Gabriel’s. The same report for 1897 records:

“From St Gabriel’s, a district formed out of St Michael’s, a loud cry for help is heard. The church officers, members of the congregation, and parents of scholars have sent in a memorial, showing what difficulty has ensued upon the success of the work in the district. The iron church, with its vestries, lobby, etc., are so crowded with school children that teachers are compelled to surrender their seats, while three children share two chairs between them. A few hundred pounds, in this case, would suffice to relieve the greater part of the stress.”[1]

Key to the early success was no doubt due to the leadership of the curate in charge, Rev. G C Day, but in November 1898 the planned depart of Rev. Day for South Africa was marked by a church tea in St Michael’s rooms in Magee Street [2].

Work at St Gabriel’s progressed as in 1899 the Church Extension Society allocated £100 towards the cost of acquiring a site for Sunday Schools in connection with the church.

No attempt here has been made to document a complete history of St Gabriel’s however after the First World War[3], the Anglican church like other churches was beginning to show signs of not having enough ordained clergy for all of its congregations. In 1925 it was reported at the annual parochial meeting for St Michael’s on 17th April, of which parish St Gabriel’s was still part, that there were difficulties in securing the services of a new curate after the departure of Rev. Hilary Waterworth[4]. The same report also gives us an insight into the finances of the two churches. Collections at St Michael’s were £442 and St Gabriel’s £130. St Michael’s showed a deficit for the year of £2 7s 1d (£2.35 = £141.69 in 2019 prices) and St Gabriel’s a surplus of £12 1s 7d (£12.08 = £728.32 in 2019 prices). From the vicar’s report in response to rumours of the closure of St Gabriel’s, he responded by indicating he would say little about that specifically but did concede that there was to be a re-arrangement of the parish boundaries. He went on to add that for a long time the congregations of St Michael’s and St Gabriel’s were divided into two watertight compartments with every organization in the parish duplicated.

Events seem to have moved quickly, as at a meeting of St Gabriel’s congregation on 16th June 1925 the vicar, Rev. W J Smith, announced his decision that St Gabriel’s was to close. The decision was not received well by the congregation and seems to have been triggered because of a proposal to extend the parish of St Giles whose population was declining. Evidently, if St Gabriel’s closed before the re-arrangement of the boundary the church funds would remain with St Michael’s otherwise it would be taken by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, presumably destined for St Giles. Before the First World War consideration had been given to creating a separate parish of St Gabriel’s and fundraising towards a permanent church building had continued. One prominent member of St Gabriel’s reported:

“We have over 300 regular communicants, over 200 children in the Sunday School which has sixteen teachers and two superintendents, one of the largest troops of Boy Scouts[5] in Northamptonshire, a girls’ Bible class with 40 members, and a boys’ Bible class with 25, and a women’s guild with over 40 members.”[6]

The congregation did not accept the decision quietly and took to writing to the local press and a petition was organised by 27th June with over 200 signatures sent to the Bishop of Peterborough requesting a stay of closure at least for at least a year. Their efforts were in vain as services ceased at the end of June 1925.

In April 1926 the site including the land and buildings formerly the mission church of St Gabriel’s, together with a brick-built and slated building known as St Gabriel’s Hall and school was advertised for sale[7]. The property was put for auction on 12th May 1926 but did not result in a satisfactory outcome. The site was withdrawn from sale at £1025, the mission church itself was withdrawn at just £50, but the hall and schools were sold for £1050[8].

The mission church building continued in community use when from August 1926 it was being advertised as the venue of the Unity Adult School[9], a use that continued and evolved through much of its subsequent life.

Returning to St Michael’s, the annual parochial meeting in 1927 revealed that the proceeds of the sale of St Gabriel’s had been distributed with £500 going to the Christ Church building fund, and the remainder to the Church Extension Board of the Archdeaconry of Northampton. The accounts for St Michael’s did show a healthier position compared with 1925 with total collections £860, and after other items of income, a surplus of £440 compared to a deficit of £2 in 1925.

The legacy and verdict

The purpose of history compared to journalism is to record the facts and where possible provide a balanced judgment of the events recorded. Viewed from the perspective of 90 years it could be argued that the closure of St Gabriel’s was a high-handed decision by the vicar of St Michael’s. The church was faced with a real shortage of clergy but St Gabriel’s was a viable and financially self-supporting community, with an enviable list of community groups, albeit small in comparison to other parishes.

The Adult Unity School acquired the buildings in 1925. Until the early 1940’s the large hall was used as a meeting place, for large county gatherings, drama, music and elocution festivals. Now known as the National Adult School Organisation (NASO)[10] meetings moved into the smaller rooms in the building, and the large hall is let to Tricker’s Shoe Manufacturers[11].

The hall and school-room have returned to Christian use, now the home of the Wesleyan Holiness Church in Northampton[12].

The scout troop moved to St Giles in 1925 rather than St Michael where it remains today as the 2nd Northampton (St Giles) Scout Group[13].

Whilst there were some frank exchanges by the various parties in the local press, the vicar did try to keep the issues out of the public domain although extracts from a parish magazine did find their way onto the front page of the Chronicle and Echo.

“I had hoped that it might have been possible to postpone action in this matter until these plans for re-organisation [of the parish boundaries] were more advanced. This, however, has proved to be impracticable, since the uncertainty with regard to the future of St Gabriel’s seems merely to be delaying the development of wider consideration. It would appear that in the past encouragement has been given to the hope of the creation of an entirely separate parish of St Gabriel, with the result that there has been a consistent furtherance of organization and equipment with this end in view…. It now transpires that this hope was never well-founded, and in present circumstances is quite impossible of achievement. This being the case, the question arises as to the necessity of the existence of two places of worship, with full organisations duplicated, in connection with one parish. Such a necessity can scarcely be seriously argued, especially in circumstances which provide totally inadequate clerical oversight even for one Church with its manifold organisations.[14]

A year later the St Michael’s parochial meeting was again front-page news recording the vicar’s attempt at the closure of the issue:

“… I ask you to consider how unfortunate, not to put it more strongly, would have been our position, if we had permitted the re-arrangement [of the parish boundaries] to take place before we had disposed, as is our right, of that property, which is the property of St Michael and All Angels.[15]

We might conclude then that the decision was an economic one in the face of the potential loss of an asset to the parish rather than the greater Christian work in the community.

  1. Northampton Mercury : Friday 26 November 1897 : page 6 col 3

  2. Rev. G C Day left St Michaels in 1898 for missionary work in South Africa, Northampton Mercury : Friday 4 November 1898 : page 8 col 1. He subsequently became rector of Thaba ‘Nchu, South Africa, People’s Friend (South Africa) : 26 June 1915 : page 3 col 4

  3. There were apparently 4000 fewer priests in 1925 compared with 1914. Of four candidates, one was near 70, one well over 60, one would have to give up his existing benefice and the last accepted another position that offered a benefice with a house attached. Northampton Daily Echo : Saturday 18 April 1925 : page 7 col 4

  4. Rev. Hilary Waterworth had left in 1924 to become vicar of Stoke Golding, Leicestershire. He was ordained in 1915 and served as curate at St Edmund for 2 years before becoming an army chaplain, returning in 1919 as curate at St Michael’s with responsibility for St Gabriel. He became rector of Brington in 1930. Northampton Mercury : Friday 01 November 1929 : page 5 col 5. Crockford Clerical Directory 1932. Oxford, 1932

  5. St Gabriel’s Scout troop commenced in 1911 and closed in 1925. A photographic archive of a summer camp in 1922 shows the size of the group. (Accessed 26 July 2019)

  6. Northampton Daily Echo : Friday 19 June 1925 : page 4 col 3

  7. Northampton Mercury : Friday 23 April 1926 : page 4 col 3

  8. Northampton Mercury : Friday 14 May 1926 : page 1 col 7

  9. Northampton Daily Echo : Friday 27 August 1926 : page 2 col 6

  10. Northamptonshire Adult School Organisation (Accessed 26 July 2019)

  11. NASO History, Eric Frost, undated (Accessed 26 Jul 2019)

  12. Wesleyan Holiness Church British Isles, (Accessed 26 July 2019)

  13. St Giles Centenary Year – 2012,—2012 (Accessed 26 July 2019)

  14. “St Gabriel’s, the creation of a separate parish” Northampton Daily Echo : Saturday 18 July 1925 : page 1 col 4

  15. “Vicar and the passing of St Gabriel’s”, Northampton Daily Echo : Wednesday 14 April 1926 : page 1 col 5

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

Jul 212019

Of the hundreds of people who work in the Moulton Park area of Northampton, few are probably aware that the ground on which they walk was formerly known as King’s Park and was indeed one of the King’s hunting parks.

There are some clues in the modern-day road names, Kings Park Road and Deer Park Road, but there are more physical reminders of the actual park in the present-day landscape, but more of that later.

Moulton Park, Edward F Leach, 1908

Moulton Park, Edward F Leach, 1908

Click the map to see an interactive version

We are indebted to Edward Leach who surveyed the area and delivered a paper to the Northampton Natural History Society and Field Club in 19081. He also produced a sketch map of the area.

King’s Park was located to the north of the Kettering Road in Northampton and bisected west to east by the modern Red House Road. Its northern extent is the old alignment of Boughton Green Road and Bougton Lane. In the medieval period, the park extended to 450 acres (or if you prefer, 675 football pitches) and was enclosed by a stone wall around its perimeter and sat in a broader open landscape extending to the perimeter of Northampton including the modern Bradlaugh’s Fields, Kettering Road golf course and probably Eastfield Park. The rising ground on which this land lies was known as Campion’s Hill.

Turning to the history of the park which was variously named Northampton Park, King’s Park and Moulton Park over the years. The park was probably originally connected with Northampton’s Castle and one of the earliest references was in 1227 when the sheriff was ordered to enclose the park. Interestingly reference was made to this practice during the reigns of Henry II, Richard I and John confirming the existence of the park in the late 12th century. Clearly, this was not done or the fence or wall required further work as a similar writ was again issued to the sheriff in 1250.

Deene stone, King's Park

Deene marker stone, King’s Park, Northampton

The maintenance of wall has proved to be a problem throughout its life but considerably helpful in tracing the history of the park in the official records. The cost of the work was shared by a number of villages in the county and the King himself. The sections that were the responsibility of these parishes were marked by named stones along the wall itself. The following parishes have been identified with this responsibility for sections over the years: Abington, Boughton, Clipston, Corby, Cransley, Crick, Dallington, Deene, Drayton, Guilsborough, Hannington, Heyford, Islip, Litchborough, Moulton, Norton, Orlingbury, Pistford, Rothersthorpe, Trafford in Byfield, Walgrave, Warden. At the time of Edward Leach’s survey, five name-bearing stones remained: Dallington, Deene, Islip, Trafford, Clipston, and Drayton. All these stones were along the southern boundary wall now mostly beneath the Parklands estate, apart from a small section enclosed by trees beyond Mallory Walk leading to the University’s Park campus. Although as recently as 1985 two stones were believed to have been included on the inside face of the rebuilt wall along Boughton Green Road bearing the inscriptions [HAY]FORD and [ROT]TRO’ (Rothersthorpe)2. Clipston, Dallington, Deene, and Islip stones are apparently in the collection of the Northampton Museums 3 .

The park was not merely the King’s Park in name only, as Richard II is known to have been at the park in 1380 since Patent Rolls record him making orders in December of that year4.

In 1576 Sir Christopher Hatton, afterwards Lord Chancellor, obtained a grant in fee of the custody of the park and warren at Moulton5. He was a in favour with Elizabeth I and no stranger to Northamptonshire having been born at Holdenby House.

Some time in probably 1649, during the Civil War, the land was sold and in 1690 it was in the ownership of Sir Andrew Hackett of Moxhull, Warwickshire6. Through a succession of owners in the 18th and 19th centuries, including William Thursby of Abington between 1720 and 1767, the land had passed into the ownership of St Andrews Hospital by the early 20th century.

King’s Park today

Remarkably there remain some physical remnants of the once great park in the modern landscape. As has already been mentioned a short section the southern boundary can still be found beyond the Parklands estate. The most obvious reminder is the sweeping curve of the old Boughton Lane road alignment along the northern boundary. There are too a number of spinneys and copses that seem to coincide with their historic locations. Most if not all of the trees will have re-grown but the characteristic outline of these features gives there presence away. Most notable is Brickyard Spinney towards the eastern end of Boughton Lane. Three copses in the open space between Parklands and Moulton Park estate exist as does a tri-angular collection of trees marking the eastern boundary of All Saints Primary School. The other notable visible feature is the entrance drive off the Kettering Road opposite Cynthia Spencer Hospice.

Interactive mapping

The interactive map shows Edward Leach’s sketch of 1908 georeferenced to current mapping7. The map aligns reasonably well to a corrected alignment. The transparency can be adjusted the slider at the top left of the screen. The map can be re-orientated with north to the top by clicking the north arrow at the top right. Alternatively, the map can be rotated using Shift+Alt+Drag or a two-finger twist on some tablets or phones.

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

Jul 132019

Old maps reveal a lot about our town. The landscape of St James and Duston has changed unrecognisably in the last 100 years. Looking at an OS map surveyed in 1883 shows an extensive standard gauge railway over a larger part of this area linking various industrial facilities together. My journey started from Stenson Street, St James, around the corner from the grandparents’ home. I noted that Stenson Street was originally named Foundry Street. This referred to an ironworks on the site of the later Tram/Bus sheds. The ironworks in St James was opened in 1853 by Joseph Stenson.

Duston and St James tramways

Duston and St James tramways
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Notice the railway lines entering the site which can be traced back to a junction on the Northampton-Blisworth line adjacent to Hunsbury Hill Iron Works. These were not the only tracks: others extended to quarry workings south of Duston and almost into the heart of Duston village. There is evidence on the map of scarring due to quarrying around other areas on the south side of Duston.

The tramway was extended under the Weedon Road through a tunnel in 1859 and continued until 1908/9. The quarry at the furthest extent, north of Bants Lane was a limestone quarry.

This was very convenient as limestone is used in the processing of Iron ore. There were lime-kilns located near the junction between the Duston and St James branches, today the site of Ross Road estate (behind Wickes and Hobbycraft). To the east is shown the Duston Brick Works.

This map is assembled from four sheets surveyed in 1883/4. I have highlighted the main tramway routes.

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

Jul 062019

Hidden in plain sight!

Northamptonshire XLV.5 (Northampton)
Surveyed: 1883 Published: 1887

Primrose Hill Congregational Chapel was built 1901-3, but it was not the first home of the meeting on the Kingsthorpe Road. It had started in 1865 from a group that left Doddridge Castle Hill. First meeting in just one room of a cottage in the area, but they had outgrown this by 1879 and built a small chapel on the corner of Knightley Road at a cost of £800. A much larger plot became available between Agnes and Arnold Roads to which they moved in 1903. The pictures show the location of the earlier building as surveyed in 1883, and another map from 1938, but what is really interesting is that the building still stands today and is incorporated into the premises of Garden Machines.

Northamptonshire XLV.5 (Northampton)
Revised: 1938 Published: 1943
Aerial view of the site
Bird’s eye view of the site
North elevation of the building

Maps: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Images: Map data ©2019 Google

© 2019, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

 Posted by at 12:10 pm
Mar 292018


Wednesday, the 26th October.

The King’s Souldiers bare ransacked and spoiled the Lord Spencer’s house and Parke, neer Banbury, and the Lord Spencer’s house is also plundered in Northampton-shire by the Cavaliers, although the said Lord hath long attended the King, and sideth with them.

Thursday, the 3 of Novem.  

The Lord Generall sent a special messenger to the Parliament, to advertise them of his present intentions and affaires, which messenger relateth that his Lordship, with his whole Army, consisting of 12,000 horse and foot, and 37 pieces of Ordnance, marched yesterday out of Northampton to Oulney, in Buckingham-shire, and intended to be this night at Brickhill, and he saith that all his souldiers. together with the Ministers, are well, lusty, and merry, and better able to doe service than when they first went from hence, being endured to cold, labour, travell, fasting, wind,  and wet, and that they are of suc. undaunted courages that they feare no colours nor dangers.

Monday, 14th of Novemb.

The Deputy Lieutenants of Darbyshire, Leiceshire, and Nottinghamshire are to meet the committee at Oundle, in Northamptonshire, to consult of securing those counties from pillaging robbers. The inhabitants of Darby Town contribute largely towards the present affairs; some of them a £100 some £50, according to their present severall abilities.

Saturday, the 19tb of November.    

The ten Counties Northwards that have lately associated themselves have done it by a speciall and particular order from both the Houses of Parliament, and they are now raising of 1,500 Dragooneers, whereof the County of Darby finds 100, Nottingham 100, Lincolne 330, Leicester and Rutland 200, Northampton 300, Bedford, Cambridge, and Huntingdon 300, and the County of Warwick 200.

Monday, 21st of Novemb.          

The Parliament hath given a Speciall License to the Counties of Bedford, Cambridge, Darby, Huntingdon, Leicester, Lincolne, Northampton, Nottingham, Rutland, and Warwick, to associate themselves in hae verba. “Novr. 19, 1642. It is this day Ordered by the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled, that the County of, &c., may enter into an Association for their defence and safety, and that such and such persons, &c., shall be a committee to meet at such time and place as they shall thinke fit for raiding of men, horse, armes, or ammunition, and ordering all things necessary thereunto, and that the Lord Gray, Son to the Earle of Stamford Hall, command in chiefe the forces to be so raised and have power to Traine and carry the said Forces to such  places as lie shall think fit, and to subdue, fight with, kill, and slay, and imprison all such persons as shall levy War without the consent of both Houses of Parliament.”

Certain Information from severall parts of the Kingdome.
From the 13 of November till the 20 of November, 1643.

The Cavaliers of late have faced the Towne of Northampton once or twice, expecting to have it betrayed unto them by one Captain Palmer, but his treachery was discovered, for which he is sentenced by a Counsell of Warre to be shot to death.

Northampton Mercury – Saturday 26 February 1881
British Newspaper Archive (

© 2018, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

 Posted by at 7:25 pm
Mar 282018

A series of historical notes appeared in Northampton Mercury from February 1875 onwards and ran for the next ten years. Titled “Antiquarian Memoranda” they often contained historical material relating to Northamptonshire, sometimes contributed by John Taylor.

Antiquarian Memoranda

We find several curious particulars concerning the Army and divers of the “separation” at Towcester at the time of the Civil War, in a rare tract, entitled —

” The Prerogative Priests Passing-Bell, or Amen to the Rigid Clergy. Showing the Usefulness, Equity, Lawfulness, and Necessity, of private persons to take upon them Preaching or Expounding of the Scriptures, having a call thereto * * * * Calculated on purpose for the Metropolis of Northamptonshire, and may serve indifferently for the Meridian of most places in other Horizons, especially for those parts that are in conjunction with the Northern Climate.”

By William Hartley.
* * * * London, 1651.

These we give below :—

December 31, 1646. The Commons assembled in Parliament, do Declare, That they do dislike, and will proceed against all such persons, as shall take upon them to preach or expound the Scriptures, in any Church or Chappel, or other publique place, except they be ordained either here, or in any other reformed Church, Ac. * * * * * It is the grief of every humane-like spirit to see Mordecai favored, although he justly may have merited the same, and what care and industry the Presbyterated party do take to render both persons and meetings of the Separation odious in the eyes of the Magistrate and people, for taste thereof, I thought good to insert the carriage of Mr. Parmer, and Gore, &c., of Towciter, whose malicious and envious spirit could not be satisfied in setting Major Ducket’s troopers to fall upon us with their naked swords, while Captain Elliot was speaking, but also caused many notorious falsehoods to be inserted in the weekly news books; viz.:— “A Tumultuous Meeting”; “Tompson’s Party, Levellers”; “Ranters, Erroneous Fellows.” For as much as this is not the first time that we have been abused in this nature (as is well known to some godly and eminent governors of this Common-Wealth), it would favour of unanswerable improvidence if we should not faithfully endeavour to wash off that dirt which is so unworthily cast in the faces of us.

Upon the first day (commonly called Whit-Sunday), divers of the Separation met at Cornet Reads house in Towciter, and after one friend had exercised his gifts, the Auditory lid exceed the room, and by reason of the throng, it was moved, for better conveniency, to go into the yard, which being of less continent than the room, by the advise of the soldiery there present, and some friends under the penthouse without door (taking the benefit of shade) was adjudged a convenient place; there Capt. Elliot (much about the time of the ending of the evening Exercise at the publique place, spake a word of exhortation, and the people gave him peaceable audience. Now that this Meeting might degenerate to tumultuous disturbance of the Peace, that must wholly lie at the door of Farmer, Gore, and their adherents, who incensed the soldiery; but by the wise carriage of the officers the business was easily appeased. Seriously this is hard measure, when Christians shall be denyed that liberty which is commonly afforded to those unreasonable creatures who lick the crumbs of our tables.

2. We are branded for Tompson’s Party; I cannot tell what to say to this allegation, seeing Tompson (his fury working his own destruction) is now under ground; but upon enquiry this is gathered, that there was one at the meeting that adhered to him, and by the Councel of State acquitted long since. Now if a convention of people must be measured by a single person, by these men’s reason Sodomites were all righteous, because one Lot inhabited the city.

For the word Leveller is a term of odium cast upon many a person for holding forth of righteous principles: for those who deny propriety under pretence of community, as we have no communion with them in such a principle, so see we no reason to debar them from hearing of the word preached.

3. Ranters, erroneous fellows, &c. For calling those that met ranters, if their passion had not quite eat up their reason this sentence would not have passed, there being neither beer, wine, women, or any other object which might provoke licentiousness made use of; besides, those who are involved in so sad condition, of necessity must turn Apostates into prayer and preaching. Now, had not the envy of the elder brother been too prevalent with them, if there came any of that judgment to the Exercise out of good intention, ought it not to be a matter of rejoicing? I am sure Jesus Christ saith there is joy in heaven upon the like occasion.

And that the mouth of envy may be fully stopped take a view of a letter directed to Mr. Benson, commissioner of the Peace, viz.
Sir,— It is related you are dissatisfied with the meeting of some dissenting from the public worship, and that myself should assume the publique place which thing never entered into my intention; however we may be mispresented through malice or misprison, yet know that our actions will manifest all peaceable obedience to the present power, to whom, with yourself, I am,

A ready servant,         WILL HARTLEY.

J. T., Northampton.

Northampton Mercury – Saturday 05 April 1879
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© 2018, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

 Posted by at 8:52 pm
Mar 272018

A series of historical notes appeared in Northampton Mercury from October 1886 onwards and ran for the next three and a half years. Titled “Things old and new” it often contain historical items relating to Northamptonshire, sometimes contributed by John Taylor.


Interesting particulars of the Levellers in the Parliamentary Army of 1649 are to be found in the British Museum collection of the Perfect Diurnall Nos. 303 and 304, from which I quote in extenso, being an historical episode in our town’s history.

J. T., Northampton.

The Headquarters at Oxford, May 19, 1649. News since came that Thompson the chiefe Leader hath possessed Northampton with two Troops of Horse, and since their comming thither many (called Levellers) from the Countrey are come to them. They have seized the Ordnance, Magazine, and monies there, yet for all you may heare they will be oatcht in a Net.

Beginning Munday, May 21, 1649.

This day a Letter was read in the house from his Excellency the Lord Fairfax, of the surprizing a party of Horse under command of Thompson chiefe leader of those called Levellers, who as we told you in the last with a small party not above 15 horse had surprized Northampton, and the manner of his being slain in the Wood neere Wellingborough, the particulars briefly thus: Major Butler, of Col. Reynoldss Regiment being sent with a select party of horse to fall into Thompsons quarters, he being gone from Northampton to a place called Wellingborough, where all his party where surprized, but Thompson escaped into a Wood, of which having intelligence, we pursued him, and beset the Wood, and sent a party into the Wood, where they found Thompson well mounted, who, being alone, yet rid up to our party and desperately shot a Cornet, and wounded another, and retreated to his bush, receiving two shots; when they began again to draw neer unto him he charged again with his Pistol, and received another shot, and retreated; the third time he came up (for he said he scornd to take quarter) Major Butlers Corporall with a Carbine charged with Seven Bullets gave Thompson his deaths wound. The Lieutenant of the Oxfordshire Troop, who joyned Thompson, is likewise taken, who it seemeth seized on the Magazine of Northampton, and the Excise Money.

The house hereupon ordered that the Commissioners of the great Seale of England be required to issue ont Commissions of Oyer and Terminer under the great Seale, in the Counties of Oxon and Northampton, for trying such persons as are in prison in Oxon and Northampton, being taken in Arms against the Commonwealth in the last Rebellion, and that the Lords Commissioners do consider of and appoint fit persons to be Commissioners therein.

Thursday, May 22nd, 1649.

By a particular Expresse from Northampton this day is certified:

Sir,—Our Town hath been this week the Scene of News, Thompson the Declaration maker with some dozen in his Company stole into this Town late on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning at Sermon time went to the Goale and demanded his friends there imprisoned, threatning death to any that should oppose, the Jaylor himselfe not being within, and the under Jaylor not daring to oppose, he took them out, but no more, and then rode with his company up and down the Town to all the Gates, and gave out that 700 men were to be quartered here that night, and that they would deliver the Nation from oppression of all sorts, and so went to see the Ordnance and Ammunition, and took the Keys into their owne hands, and then went to the Market crosse and read his Declaration, and made a speech to those that came about him, that he would free them from Excise, Free quarter, Taxes, and Tythes, and exhorted all men to assist him in so good a work; and then went to the Excise Office and took all the money he there found, and gave much to the poor people that flockt about him and prayd for him. After that he enquired for Drums, and fetcht them where he found them, and beat them all about the Town, and a Serjeant made proclamation that those who would list themselves should be well entertained: Then he went to the Mayor and demanded the Keys of the Town hall, because he heard there were Arms and Ammunition there; but was answered that it was the Towns and should not be at his dispose. Next morning he and all his Company came to the Mayor and demanded the Key again, but were denied as before. All this while no body stird, I being engaged because it was Lecture day, was not informed of any thing; but Friday noon I went to Mr. Mayor to satisfie my selfe how this impudence of a few men could be so swallowed in this Town, that was not went to carry ooals so patiently? he told me he had summoned his brethren and very few came, and those devided in their judgements what to do, told him, He spake well and they believed had a great party, for not onely the old Malignants and rabble of poore people would be for him, but all Sectaries in Town an Countrey, because he promises to pull down Tythes and Ministers that we had no horse to oppose theirs, and they would quell our foot as soon as any preparation should be made, or arms put into their hands; neither knew we whom to trust, all men were so unsatisfied, and taken with his grounds, that it was lawfull to repell force with force and if they should engage and get the worst the Town would be destroyed; that he had sent to Sir Gilbert Pickering and divers of the Committee, and had no encouragement to meddle, but was perswaded that it was best to let them take their course, so long as they were neither insolent nor injurious unto any, but very civill, and payd for what they took, and that he was certainly enformed the Generall had utterly defeated those at Burford, and was upon his march this way, and would finde these men carelesse. I told him it would be no thank to us if it were wholy done without us, and that we might inform the Generall privately, and see what answer we should have.

As we were talking one brought word that his new listed men were marching out of the Town much afraid, and had set scouts on all the passes toward Oxford, where it was believed the Generall was, Yet they were perswaded to write presently to the Generall how things were, and because it should not be discovered one of the Alderman, being a Physician, put the Letter in the bottom of a Box with Pils, and directed them to one in Witney whom he knew. Thompson himselfe made no haste to go out of the Town until the evening, and then went not above six miles to Walgrave, where he and his company being about 21 foot and nine or ten horse quartered; and were so confident (because they found so little opposition at Northampton) that the Generals Forlorn hope was with them in the morning before they stird out of their quarters; he was on horseback himselfe and might have escaped, but had engaged overnight not to desert his foot, and so stirred not but stayd their comming, and ohargd three severall times himselfe, and went off gallantly, and led them thus some three miles, but being shot and bleeding, leapt into a Wood with his horse, and routed those that first pursued him on horseback, and being offered quarter told them he scorned it; but one of Major Butlers Troop left his horse and having a good Carbine waylaied him in the bushes he heard him comming, and having a fair shot him with a trace of Bulletts so that began to stagger, and the fellow to make sure him a good blow with the end of his Carbine and feld him, and so died William Thompson, and was brought Saturday night into this Town, there was but one slain, not outright, but dead by this time. Poore Northampton for their want of valour punished with the free quarter of about 800 horse and men, and left to be censored as please men. I liked not their politicke cowardinesse, because I thought it might invite mere of that kind, the Lord helpe this poor kingdom, there is no trusting these men, they made many believe that severall Commanders of note would presently be with them with a great brigade of horse, Mrs. Thompson bearing of her husband’s death, being great with child and near her time, fell in labour, and both she and her child are dead.

We are desired by the Licencer M. Jenings to insert thus much, That whereas for some Weeks past there was a Sheet published, called The Scout Printed on Fridayes for Robert Wood, he wil from henceforth upon good grounds deny Licence to the said Sheet for that day, as also some other Sheets of as little satisfaction to the Kingdom.

Northampton Mercury – Saturday 20 August 1887
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© 2018, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

 Posted by at 6:45 pm
Feb 082018

John Taylor“A Victorian Blogger”

John Taylor was the son of a Northampton printer and publisher of the same names; he was born in Northampton on April 13th, 1831. John was educated at Northampton Grammar School, at a private school run by a Mr Emery, in College Street, Northampton, and for two years at the Castle Hill School operated by the Rev. William Jarrom, for two years the General Baptist minister in the town. When Mr Jarrom left for work in China, John was sent to James Linnett’s school at Towcester. Apprenticed to the printing trade in Northampton and London, he returned to Northampton in 1853, joined his father in business, and added a second-hand book line to the business at the premises at 22, Gold Street. His father retired in 1862, and after his father died in 1864 John succeeded to the full control of a printing and stationery business. Unfortunately for his business success, but happily for Northamptonshire bibliography, John Taylor’s love of books and an ever-present anxiety to collect every scrap of Northamptonshire’s history, overshadowed everything else.

His father was one of the promoters of the General Baptist cause in Northampton which met for some years in the Kingswell Street chapel. When the General Baptist cause in Northampton ceased to function, John Taylor joined the College Street Baptist Church, and it was he who was largely responsible for raising the funds which put up the new chapel in College Street1 . His connection with the Baptists all his life made him keenly interested in the history of the denomination. He was the best authority on early Baptist history in this part of the country, and for very many years he worked at an important volume on Confessions of Faith. A copy of “The Faith and Practise of thirty Baptized Churches” in the Midlands (dated 1651) was to be the centre of an exhaustive collection of Confessions of Faith from all parts of the world, and the basis for biographies of the signatories, and histories of the Churches they represented, but he died with the work incomplete2.

In 1884 Taylor moved his business to premises at 9 College Street and bought a private house in York Road, Northampton, where he lived until his death on August 25th, 1901. John Taylor was twice married. His first wife, who died in 1891, was Miss Sarah Scott, of Leicester. His second wife, who survived him, was Miss Ellen Colson, of Rushden. He left no children.

A Liberal in politics, John Taylor did not take a prominent part in local public affairs; although he had his windows broken over the Bradlaugh disputes, and although he sometimes wrote a critical letter to the newspapers on municipal matters.

His first passion was to buy and handle, and frequently to retain specimens of Northamptonshire printing, or rare volumes of Northamptonshire history. In the long years of his collecting, a copy of almost every known Northamptonshire book, no matter how large or how small or insignificant, passed through his hands. He was at every public sale of books in the district, and he spent much time at the British Museum Library, the Bodleian at Oxford, and the University Library at Cambridge, carefully collating rare specimens of Northamptonshire works. In the course of nearly forty years, he collected and put into type for his Bibliotheca the title page and collation of 30,000 Northamptonshire books. Only six copies were printed, one of which was acquired by the Northampton Public Library3.

Naturally, in the course of his investigations, he came across many unknown items of Northamptonshire history. These he collected and printed, but, curiously never issued until a few weeks before his death, when they were published under the title of “Antiquarian Memoranda.” In 1884 he commenced the “Northamptonshire Notes and Queries” which, issued for twelve years, forms six unique and valuable volumes.

Taylor was a lover of books, and he only parted with his choicest acquisitions with the greatest reluctance. The majority of his collections of books and manuscripts of John Clare and miscellaneous Northamptonshire books are in the Northampton Central Library. He possessed, at the time of his death, unique collections of rare sixteenth-century tracts, Baptist historical literature, Baptist Missionary literature, Northamptonshire engravings and portraits, Northamptonshire poll books and election literature, and historical notes on every village and town in the county. He was a source of reference to others engaged in local history research, knowledge that was willing shared and often writing updates and responses in the local newspapers.

One of his greatest achievements was as part of a group in the 1860s that formed the Northampton Free Library, evolving as the Northampton Public Library and today is still a significant proportion of the local studies collection of the Northampton Central Library.

Death of John Taylor, printer and book-lover, Northampton Mercury, Friday 30 August 1901
John Taylor obituary, Notes & Queries Sept. 14, 1901, vol 8 p 223
Northamptonshire Notes & Queries, second series, vol. 1, pp 13-16
Roger Hayden, “John Taylor and the Records of Northants Nonconformity,” Baptist Quarterly 24.7 (July 1972): 342-344

© 2018, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

 Posted by at 9:39 pm
Oct 272017

A new map shows the locations of nonconformist chapels within Northampton. Some buildings were used by several different denominations over the years. As a consequence of redevelopment, not all buildings are still in existence, particularly in the central area.

If you zoom and click on the marker of interest full details about the use of the building is shown in the information box.

A complete listing of Northampton Chapels can be found here.

© 2017, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

 Posted by at 6:57 pm